The Gatsby

The last time Melba came out to DnU HQ, she asked to try a Gatsby, which she had seen on the Rachel Maddow Show. It’s a very simple cocktail.

The Gatsby

  • 1 pony of Amaretto
  • 1 pony of light Crème de Cacao
  • 2 oz. light cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
  • enough ice to fill bottom third of the large cup to a French or Boston shaker
Combine ingredients and shake well. Strain into lowball- or martini-glass. Enjoy.

The drink is mild, sweet, and very easy to make. If it transports the drinker to the Gilded Age, all the more wonderful. Of course, I find the drink interesting because of the ingredients.

Amaretto, or almond liqueur, is interesting because of what it often doesn’t contain—almonds. Most Amarettos are actually flavored with apricot pits. The compound that gives the almond flavor to the liqueur, whether from apricot pits or almonds, is benzaldehyde. Benzaldehyde is derived from amygdalin, which is a form of cyanide. We’re lucky that benzaldehyde is the safe, lovely smelling, “bitter almond” part to amygdalin, and not the poison part. Apricot pits contain more amygdalin, and therefore benzaldehyde, than almonds do, and as no one wants to eat apricot pits (including birds—do not feed peach or apricot pits to birds!), it’s a perfect ingredient to make Amaretto.

Then there is the Crème de Cacao, which is a chocolate liqueur. It is not, however, very chocolatey. It comes in two varieties, light and dark. I tend to avoid the dark, because it is usually artificially colored. Despite the name, Crème de Cacao has no cream, and the light version is clear. The crème refers to the silky quality of the liqueur, which is entirely due to the sugar content. Crème de Cacao is sweet, slightly chocolatey in flavor—although, I find it brings more of a sweetened vanilla syrup aspect to the table—and is inexpensive. This is definitely one of the liqueurs that the consumer is best served by buying something off-brand. There was an explosion in chocolate liqueurs from brands like Godiva and Cadbury, but those liqueurs are opaque, with higher sugar contents and much richer chocolate flavors. These pour like chocolate milk, and are not substitutes for Crème de Cacao.

I used Crème de Cacao in the Christmas Blizzard cocktail that I made for Mrs. Ferment last year as bridge between the Irish cream and peppermint extract. It didn’t turn the drink into something chocolatey, but, like vanilla, it smoothed out all the other ingredients.

The Gatsby, using Amaretto and Crème de Cacao, both at 40-proof, is a decent aperitif or digestif, that is to say one or two before or after a meal is plenty. Being tasty and mild presents the drinker with the dilemma of wanting to drink more of them, but fatty cream and lower alcohol will play tricks on the stomach. By the time the drinker has had enough, it’s too much. As always, enjoy in moderation.